Hands-On, Smartphone

Samsung Galaxy S20 & S20+ Hands-On: Moving up the Price Range

The Samsung Galaxy S20 Ultra is one impressive smartphone, but it also costs quite a bit of money. If the S20 Ultra is a bit too rich for you, there are still two other devices in the series for you to consider: the Samsung Galaxy S20 and Galaxy S20+.

Even though these two smartphones aren’t quite as feature-packed as their higher-end sibling, they do have their own appeal. This is especially the case with the standard S20, thanks to its compact size. In fact, after spending some time with both smartphones, I find the S20 more compelling than the S20+.

However, even though these two devices cost less than the S20 Ultra, they’re still not particularly affordable. If you want to get Samsung’s 2020 flagship smartphones, prepare to pay more.

Before we get to it, let’s break down the specifications of the Galaxy S20 and S20+. Aside from the different display size and battery capacity, both smartphones are virtually identical to each other. They share the same design, an Exynos 990 chipset, a 3200 x 1440 Dynamic AMOLED 2X display (with a fast 120Hz refresh rate), and similar camera configuration.

Okay, it’s not completely the same camera system. The Galaxy S20 features a triple camera system, which is made up of a 12MP f/1.8 main sensor, a 12MP f/2.2 ultra-wide angle shooter, and a 64MP f/2.0 telephoto lens. The S20+, on the other hand, has the same three sensors, but it adds on a DepthVision time-of-flight camera.

Now, even though the standard S20 doesn’t have a ToF sensor, you can still expect very similar camera performance as the S20+. Plus – no pun intended – the S20 has one big advantage over its bigger sibling: ergonomics.

Because it has a smaller 6.2-inch display (the S20+ has a bigger 6.7-inch screen), the Galaxy S20 is a lot easier to use with one hand. Reaching for the right side of the screen with my left hand isn’t impossible, though the sheer length of the screen still makes it very hard to reach for the top to pull down the notification shade.

On top of that, the Galaxy S20 just feels really nice to hold in my hands. Given that there’s no successor to the even more compact Samsung Galaxy S10e – a big personal lost to me – the S20 is the next best thing. It’s not quite the same, but it’s better than nothing.

But enough of that: what about other aspects of the Galaxy S20 and S20+? Aesthetically, these two smartphones are very eye-catching, courtesy of the Infinity-O Display. It’s similar to the Samsung Galaxy Note 10‘s hole-punch cutout, but the camera cutout for the 10MP f/2.2 selfie camera of the S20 and S20+ is markedly smaller.

Just like the Galaxy S20 Ultra, the S20 and S20+ no longer have the dual curved display of their predecessors; a good call on Samsung’s part. Sure, the curved screen has been Samsung’s signature design element for many years, but it’s not very ergonomically-friendly, especially when it comes to palm rejection.

As for the display quality of these two phones, they’re great. Samsung makes some of the best screens in the market, and it’s perfectly shown here with the Galaxy S20 series. Their displays have deep blacks, punchy colours, excellent viewing angles, and relatively neutral colour temperature. To make things even better, the refresh rate has also been bumped up to 120Hz from 60Hz, though this can only be enabled in Full HD+ or HD+ resolution.

I’ve said it many times before, and I’ll say it again: high refresh rate screens dramatically improve the user experience. Once you’ve used a smartphone with such a display, you really wouldn’t want to go back to a conventional 60Hz screen. Practically every motion on the S20 and S20+’s displays look incredibly smooth. They also give the impression of snappier, more responsive performance.

That’s not to say the Galaxy S20 and S20+ are not fast to begin with, of course. The Exynos 990 chipset under the hood of these two phones should be able to deliver flagship-tier performance. In my brief time with the S20 and S20+, both of them feel very quick with absolutely no slowdowns at all. The Exynos 990 may not seem as attractive compared to the Qualcomm Snapdragon 865, but that doesn’t mean the former can’t offer comparable performance.

Battery life of the S20 and S20+ are perfectly adequate too. The S20 features a 4,000mAh cell, while the S20+ has a more generous 4,500mAh battery. These large battery capacities are complemented by the power efficiency of the 7nm Exynos 990, so these two phones should be able to return (at the very least) all-day battery life.

Last but definitely not least is the camera performance of the Galaxy S20 and S20+. While I wasn’t able to really test out the camera of both phones, they do seem like capable shooters. The camera interface is snappy, intuitive to navigate, and I really appreciate the zoom selectors. It makes it more seamless to pick my desired zoom level.

Although the Galaxy S20 and S20+’s camera system cannot do 100x zoom like the S20 Ultra, they can still achieve 30x digital zoom. I didn’t extensively try out the zoom performance, but it doesn’t feel particularly…well, amazing. More often than not, it’s a blurry mess at 30x zoom.

Then again, it’s still too early to tell if the S20 and S20+’s camera (and zoom) performance is bad or not. It’s only fair to give them a more thorough test in a full review.

The Samsung Galaxy S20 and S20+ are meant to serve as more affordable alternatives to the range-topping S20 Ultra while still offering a similar feature set. These include the same display, performance level, and design. In short, they don’t feel like compromises, though the S20 Ultra does have a more sophisticated camera system.

That being said, the Galaxy S20 and S20+ still cost quite a bit of money. For the Malaysian market, the S20 retails at RM3,599, while the S20+ goes for RM3,999. It’s also worth noting that these phones are only offered with 128GB of expandable storage and 8GB of RAM.

Sure, compared to the Galaxy S20 Ultra’s steep RM4,999 price tag, the S20 and S20+ don’t appear quite as expensive. But given that their predecessors didn’t cost this much when they were launched here, it’s evident Samsung is moving up the price range of the Galaxy S series. To put this into context, the Galaxy S10 and S10+ retailed at RM3,299 and RM3,699 respectively.

Of course, the Galaxy S20 and S20+ bring quite a number of upgrades to the table compared to their direct predecessors. But as Samsung raises the price of their flagship smartphones, so do expectations. Hopefully, the Galaxy S20 series’ high asking prices are well-justified, and I can’t wait to see if this is the case once these premium flagships are in for review.

Those who can’t wait to get their hands on the Galaxy S20 series can now pre-order them until 26 February on Samsung’s official site.